Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 30 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss immigration reform.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Damn the facts and costs, full speed ahead

We often talk about how poorly we’re served by our political class.  The examples are legion (just take a gander at the “Gang of 8′s” travesty of an immigration bill).  But most puzzling about what they do is when there are real world examples of why what they propose is doomed to costly failure, they go ahead anyway.  Hubris?  Arrogance?  Ideology? A giant dollop of all?

Take Obama’s latest – his late entry into the climate change nonsense just as everyone else has realized it’s a costly boondoggle and are pulling out.  For example:

In May, Europe’s heads of state and government at the EU Summit promoted shale gas and reduced energy prices. They would rather promote competition than stop global warming.

Obama just returned from Northern Ireland at the G8 meeting where he evidently didn’t ask why the United Kingdom removed climate change from the agenda.

European carbon markets had collapsed with the price of carbon hitting record lows, wrecking the European Union’s trading scheme for industrial CO2 emissions.

British Gas owner Centrica was buying up shale gas drilling rights in Lancashire for fracking operations. Green investors faced bankruptcy as Spain cut subsidies even further.

Large German companies such as Siemens and Bosch abandoned the solar industry, which had lost them billions, while investments in failed solar companies, including Q-Cells and SolarWorld, destroyed 21 billion euros of capital.

In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a June energy conference in Berlin to expect reduced government spending on energy like wind and solar power to keep Germany economically competitive. Europe’s clean energy economy had become a black hole eating euros.

Last week, Merkel’s government warned EU member states that German car makers would shut down production in their countries unless they support more affordable vehicle emissions rules.

At the same time, our oblivious president spoke at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, saying, “The United States will “do more,” before it’s “too late” to prevent “dangerous” global warming.

Yeah.  We’ll do “more”.  Meanwhile, everyone else has decided to do much less or … nothing.  And that “more” Obama is talking about?  Well, apparently it’s time to wreck another industry:

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told me, “The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan is a declaration of all-out war on coal. The only affordable way to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power plants – which now provide 40 percent of the nation’s electricity – is to close them down.”

Obama’s plan has political implications as well, Ebell said. “Coal dominates the heartland states that tend to vote Republican. Major industries are located there because coal produces cheap electricity. If electric rates go up to California levels in the heartland, where will American manufacturing go?”

Good question, no?  Answer: he doesn’t really care.  Seriously.  This is all about ideology.  Blinders on, facts ignored, examples discarded, it’s about legacy and “saving the world from itself” even if he has to do so autocratically.  Because, you know, that Constitution thingie just get’s in the way of good governance … or something.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 27 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial jobless claims fell 9,000 to 346,000. The 4-week average fell 2,750 to 345,750, while continuing claims fell 1,000 to 2.965 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to -28.3 in the latest week.

Personal income rose 0.5% in May, while spending rose 0.3%. The PCE price index rose 0.1% at both the headline and core rates. On a year-over-year basis, personal income rose 3.3%, while spending rose 2.9%. The PCE price index rose 1.0% at the headline rate and 1.1% at the core rate.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 6.7% in May, to 112.3.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index fell to -5 in June from 2 in May.

The Fed reports that the M2 money supply rose by $3.9 billion in the latest week.

~
Dale Franks
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How government creates and abets “crime”

I’m always a little taken aback that normally intelligent people just don’t seem to get the fact that for the most part, without government, there can be no “blackmarket”:

Indiana’s cigarette tax is relatively low. Chicago has been complaining for some time that people will go to the Hoosier State, buy a few cartons, then come back to Chicago and sell them at prices undercutting Illinois rates, but still make money. Kentucky, though its tax isn’t too high, also finds its citizens crossing into Indiana to buy their tobacco to sell them cheaper back home. It’s called the black market and high tobacco taxes foster this criminal enterprise.

Now California wants to hike taxes to some of the highest rates in the country.

Democrat State Senator Kevin De Leon has introduced a plan to hike cigarette taxes (SB 768 ) in order to pay for more state spending. But this idea is nothing new and has been defeated several times before. Even law enforcement has been against these tax hikes because such plans embolden dangerous criminals

States with high tobacco taxes like New York have reported higher levels of black-market smuggling, a big source of money for gangs and organized crime. By one 2011 estimate three of every five cigarettes smoked in the Empire State was purchased illegally.

If government doesn’t a) make something “illegal” or b) tax it to the point that other sources of a wanted commodity from states which tax it less become attractive, how would a blackmarket form among voluntary traders?

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 26 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

The Commerce Department’s 3rd GDP revision for the 1st Quarter was slashed to 1.8% annualized from the second revision’s 2.4%. The GDP price index was revised upwards slightly to 1.2%.

1Q corporate profits were revised up to 1.75 trillion from the previous 1.738 trillion. This is still below the 4Q’s $1.774 trillion.

The MBA reports mortgage applications fell -3.0% last week, with purchases up 2.0% but re-fis down -5.0%.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 25 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

May durable goods orders jumped 3.6% overall, while ex-transportation orders rose 0.7%. This follows a similar 3.6% rise in April. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 7.6% overall, while ex-transportation orders are up 2.8%.

New home sales were stronger-than-expected in May, with an annual rate of 476,000 homes sold.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index jumped 12% in April, with a year-over-year increase of 12.1%.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 81.4–a recovery high–in June from last month’s 76.2.

Like most of the recent Fed indices, the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index was strongly positive, rising to 8 in June from -2 in May.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index surged over 100, rising from 94.8 in May to 106.8 in June.

The FHFA House Price Index continues to move upward, rising 0.7% in April, which is a gain of 7.4% on a year-over-year basis.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman reports a 1.1% increase for last week, but a weak 1.6% increase over last year. Redbook reports a 2.8% year-over-year same-store retail sales increase, which is right on trend.

~
Dale Franks
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The epic decline of American influence and power

And it has primarily happened under this administration as Bret Stephens outlines in his Wall Street Journal piece.  The Snowden chase has been most instructive in how little influence American now has.  When your naive foreign policy is to have other countries “like” you instead of understanding the respect is currency you should be dealing in (and also understanding how you earn that), then the results are predictable:

At this writing, Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive National Security Agency contractor indicted on espionage charges, is in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin’s spokesman insists his government is powerless to detain him. “We have nothing to do with this story,” says Dmitri Peskov. “I don’t approve or disapprove plane tickets.”

Funny how Mr. Putin always seems to discover his inner civil libertarian when it’s an opportunity to humiliate the United States. When the Russian government wants someone off Russian soil, it either removes him from it or puts him under it. Just ask investor Bill Browder, who was declared persona non grata when he tried to land in Moscow in November 2005. Or think of Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, murdered by Russian prison officials four years later.

Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong, where local officials refused a U.S. arrest request, supposedly on grounds it “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” That’s funny, too, since Mr. Snowden had been staying in a Chinese government safe house before Beijing gave the order to ignore the U.S. request and let him go.

“The Hong Kong government didn’t have much of a role,” Albert Ho, a Hong Kong legislator, told Reuters. “Its role was to receive instructions to not stop him at the airport.”

Oh … so those freedom loving countries couldn’t do anything?  Both just ignored us.  That’s right, because they knew what?  There’d be no reprisal nor would they suffer any harm for ignoring us.  In fact, today it was decided that ignoring the US would have no lasting or negative effect on US-Chinese relationships.  In fact, China shot back:

China rebuked the United States on Tuesday for accusing it of facilitating the flight of fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, and said suggestions that it had done so were “baseless and unacceptable”.

Oh, what the heck.  We all know a toothless tiger when we see one and the US is perceived as such right now.  Don’t believe it?  Look at how well our new SecState “negotiated” our position in Afghanistan:

Merely to get the Taliban to the table for a bogus peace process, the administration agreed at Pakistan’s urging to let Mullah Omar come to the table on his owns terms: no acceptance of the Afghan Constitution, no cease-fire with international forces, not even a formal pledge to never again allow Afghanistan to become a haven for international terrorism. The U.S. also agreed, according to Pakistani sources, to allow the terrorist Haqqani network—whose exploits include the 2011 siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul—a seat at the table.

Yet having legitimized Haqqani and given the Taliban everything it wanted in exchange for nothing, the U.S. finds itself being dumped by its own client government in Kabul, which can always turn to Iran as a substitute patron. Incredible: no peace, no peace process, no ally, no leverage and no moral standing, all in a single stroke. John Kerry is off to quite a start.

Stunning.  Not surprising, given the cast of characters, but stunning in its demonstration of the level of incompetence this administration demonstrates daily.

And Russia – they’re so unimpressed with this administration that they’ve redefined “reset” to mean they can pretty openly cheat on the 1987 missile accord and fear no consequences.  That while the Taliban, after getting all they wanted from Kerry, then turned around and attacked the Afghan presidential palace in a brazen attack.  Obviously they fear no meaningful consequences for that either.

Oh, yeah, they’re on top of it all aren’t they?

So sure, after doing such a great job in the areas mentioned, and don’t forget Libya and Egypt, by the way, this disastrous crew want to involve us in Syria?

No thanks.

~McQ


Prepare for the next government push to scam their way into your wallet

The Wall Street Journal reports:

When President Barack Obama lays out plans to tackle climate change in a speech Tuesday, including the first effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, he will unleash a years long battle that has little assurance of being resolved during his time in office.

The president has called climate change a “legacy issue,” and his speech may head off a backlash from environmentalists should his administration approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. But the address is unlikely to blunt criticism of Mr. Obama’s approach from the left or the right.

He is set to propose a host of measures to help lower emissions of gases that climate scientists say contribute to climate change. These include ways to boost energy efficiency, promote cleaner energy and rein in emissions from the existing fleet of power plants, according to people briefed on the speech.

Of course, as we’ve seen, the science and reality doesn’t support their contentions – and that’s all they are – at all.  It is another scam designed to literally create a tax out of thin air.  And they will try all the emotional arguments too.

We’ll be told that F3+ tornadoes are up because of climate change :

We’ll be told that hurricanes are up  because of climate change:

We’ll be told we’re suffering more drought/wetness because of climate change:

And that temperatures are higher than ever:

Reality is a bitch.

All you have to remember is what they said would happen based on their predictions hasn’t.  In fact, it’s not even close, is it?

HT: Powerline

~McQ

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